Archive for January, 2011

January 21st, 2011

Brewsters collaborate on Project Venus

Today, three women will undertake what appears to be the first collaboration of female brewers. Megan O’Leary Parisi of our local Cambridge Brewing Co., Whitney Thompson of Victory in Pennsylania and Laura Ulrich of Stone in California will gather at the CBC to make a Belgian dubbel-style ale that they have labeled Project Venus. Cool, eh?

OK, all you medieval history buffs out there know it’s probably not the first collaboration. In the Middle Ages in England, brewing was women’s work, and the women who made beer were called brewsters. No doubt they joined forces from time to time. As Judith M. Bennett writes in Ale, Beer and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600:

“Women once brewed and sold most of the ale drunk in England, and since ale was, as we shall see, drunk in vast quantities, women had to produce and market it in vast quantities as well. Today, most aspects of the brewing trade … rest largely in the hands of men. Women’s work has now become men’s work. When did this happen? Why? With what effect?”

To answer that last question…

Uh, yeah. Bring on the Project Venus, ladies. The three brewsters hatched the collaboration while hanging out in Denver during the Great American Beer Festival last fall. They’ll take the rich, malty, dried-fruit character of a classic dubbel and add a few twists, such as oranges, orange-blossom honey and saffron (!). Parisi, who has been brewing at the CBC since 2006, expects to tap the beer toward the end of February.

Long live the brewster tradition!

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Posted in Beer | 1 Comment »

January 17th, 2011

Rediscover Boston – video

Hey! I’m an “ultimate insider” in the MSN website’s new “Rediscover…” series of travel videos profiling 12 U.S. cities. In the intro to the Boston videos, three other insiders and I gather for pints at Doyle’s in Jamaica Plain and gab about our fave spots in greater Beantown. Then, we splinter off into four separate vignettes where each of us pairs up with another Bostonian and drives a Buick (the series’ sponsor) to different neighborhoods. Here’s the one I’m in with Harvard archivist and Boston Typewriter Orchestra member Giordana Mecagni.

The other Boston insiders are Fenway Park DJ (and sometime drinkboston drinking buddy) TJ Connelly, butcher and fishmonger Michael Dulock of Concord Prime & Fish, and Kupah James, a hiphop dancer, DJ and mentor to teen boys. The videos jam lots of noteworthy places and things, both touristy and un-touristy, into just a few minutes: East Boston (the Zumix performance space, the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, Piers Park, Santarpio’s Pizza, Scups), downtown (Union Oyster House, Boston Athenaeum, Stoddard’s, Bond) Back Bay/South End (Casa Romero, the Otherside Cafe, Darrell’s Corner Bar, Wally’s), Inman Square (East Coast Grill, Trina’s Starlite Lounge, OlĂ©), Concord (Concord Prime & Fish, Main Streets Market, Concord Barber Shop), Jamaica Plain (Salmagundi hat shop, Vee Vee, Ten Tables, Doyle’s) and Fenway Park, to name a few.

The experience gave me an appreciation for the skill with which professional video producers boil an entire weekend of shooting into just a few informative, lively minutes. My favorite behind-the-scenes moment was showing up at the Union Oyster House in the middle of an autumn Saturday lunch rush with a crew of about 10 (producer, a couple camera guys, a sound guy, a photographer, assistants, etc) and nonetheless being politely expedited to a table where we filmed a conversation amid the hubbub. And I got to fulfill my lifelong dream of sucking down a raw oyster on camera.

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Posted in drinkboston in the news, Video | 4 Comments »

January 6th, 2011

Boston barkeeps organize

Don’t get the wrong idea from this vintage photo in the Boston Public Library’s print & photograph collection: women are well represented behind Beantown bars, and they and their male counterparts are getting organized.

First, our city’s own chapter of the U.S. Bartenders Guild will soon be official. Corey Bunnewith of Citizen Pub, Kirsten Amman of LUPEC Boston, Alex Homans of Russell House Tavern and Rob Hoover of Upstairs on the Square are helming this effort, which right now involves finding at least 40 members with $100 for annual dues to sign on. Meanwhile, April Wachtel, bar manager of the solid new South End restaurant & bar The Gallows, has started a less formal, local (and, for now, free) concern called the Boston Bartenders Collaborative.

I never knew the USBG existed before the craft cocktail movement got going. It was founded way back in 1948, and it’s affiliated with the 50-country International Bartenders Association, itself established in 1951. USBG sponsors seem to include every spirits conglomerate known to man — Pernod Ricard, Bacardi Ltd., William Grant, etc. — as Jonathan “Cocktail Guru” Pogash indicates in his summary of a recent field trip to Boston to help spark the USBG chapter here. Bunnewith says that although these companies obviously aim to promote their brands by sponsoring Guild events, they impose no restrictions on the use of spirits from lesser-known producers.

The four USBG-Boston officers mentioned above hosted a Pernod Ricard-sponsored meet & greet just before Christmas at Russell House Tavern to drum up interest, and several bartenders and others related to the industry (including this blogger) turned out. Lucky for me and a few others around town: we get our first year’s dues waived for having successfully completed the BarSmarts program. (The USBG has different membership categories, one of which is for people who aren’t actually bartenders.)

Why should you join? One reason is career advancement. “As the Guild gains a reputation in Boston, employers will recognize that members are knowledgable and passionate about alcoholic beverages and the operations of a bar,” says Bunnewith. The USBG also has an accreditation program that is recognized worldwide, in case you decide to pack your bar tools and move to Bratislava. Other perks include product-education classes, events, the occasional field trip and invitations to participate in cocktail competitions (i.e. create cocktails for liquor companies for free as you vie to win a cool trip). In earnest, the chance to network, taste product, and go to fun events with others who take the profession seriously seem to me like excellent reasons to get involved.

Those are the same reasons people in the local biz should take a look at the Boston Bartenders Collaborative. Wachtel envisions a symbiotic relationship between USBG-Boston and her grass-roots enterprise, which is focused on education and so far has about 15 volunteer participants. Most meetings take place in one of the members’ bars during a weekday. The next one, at Craigie on Main January 10, will feature John Mayer of Craigie and Tyler Wang of Drink talking about ice and dilution in cocktails. Other topics in the works include an interactive roundtable about cocktail formulas and discussions on speed and volume, guest relations and managing inventory. (See info about participating below.)

“There’s a good part of our community that wants to learn in ways beyond just informal visits to other bars. This is a chance to build something that has never existed in Boston,” says Wachtel, adding that the Collaborative aims to “have fun and not take ourselves too seriously.”

Sure, some people might chuckle at the notion of bartenders getting together to talk about ice and inventory, but think about it: Boston barkeeps are elevating their profession and trying to create a solid talent pool in this town. I, for one, am wicked psyched about that.

For information about joining USBG-Boston, go to the group’s Facebook page or email

Most Boston Bartenders Collaborative seminars are members-only, but select seminars will be open to the general public. To receive notifications about seminars, or for more information, email April Wachtel at

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Posted in Bartenders, Books & resources | 2 Comments »